CamBay property manager still outraged over GN fuel problems

“From start to finish, it’s been a government screw-up”


An additive to fuel received in Cambridge Bay and other Kitikmeot communities may be behind the mounting number of broken fuel pumps in the region. (FILE PHOTO)

An additive to fuel received in Cambridge Bay and other Kitikmeot communities may be behind the mounting number of broken fuel pumps in the region. (FILE PHOTO)

Although the Government of Nunavut says the quality of fuel delivered in 2009 to the Kitikmeot region isn’t to blame, some property managers, housing corporations and private homeowners there are still outraged over a string of fuel pump break-downs in their communities.

More than 200 fuel pumps have been replaced, mainly in Cambridge Bay, since last December, when three of the four fuel pumps on boilers in the Helen Maksagak building suddenly stopped working during a a blizzard.

Over the past eight months, the Enokhok Development Corp. has been forced to replace more than 20 fuel pumps at its various properties around town, sometimes three times at the same address.

Responding last spring to complaints that bad fuel was behind the fuel pump break-downs, the GN’s Petroleum Products Division sent fuel samples to the Alberta Research Council for testing — and these determined everything was normal.

However, other tests on the pumps themselves did show that residues from a lubricity additive appeared to be stopping the fuel pumps from turning, the PDD’s manager of fuel operations, Todd McKay, acknowledged in an email to Enokhok, obtained by Nunatsiaq News.

The PPD wasn’t ready to say the additive was “failing specifically,” but “it appears to be what is causing the problems in the fuel.”

McKay said the PPD wanted answers from the company that makes the additive.

“At this stage it’s not blame in any way, but more of a question of why is this happening and have they encountered this before,” McKay said in a May 21 e-mail to Martin Moffitt, northern operations manager for Enokhok, which owns and manages property in Cambridge Bay, Kugluktuk and Gjoa Haven.

With no update since then, despite numerous requests, Moffitt told Nunatsiaq News he’s frustrated and ready to send a bill to the GN for fuel pump damage that Enokhok has incurred since last December.

“The government is not owning up to it,” Moffitt said.

The total amount of damages incurred in the Kitikmeot stands at more than $100,000 — “and climbing,” he said.

Moffit said the GN should take financial responsibility for accepting the fuel that caused all the fuel pump breakdowns, just as any responsible contractor would.

“If we make a screwup on a job, it’s up to us to fix it. If I come into your house and fix your electric stove, but, in fixing your electric stove, I wreck your cupboards, we would be responsible financially to repair it, fix it replace it, whatever, so you’re satisfied in the end when we walk out the door. In the same token, I feel the government made a screw-up,” Moffitt said.

“I think entirely from start to finish, it’s been a government screw-up,” he said.

Moffitt also maintains that the fuel pump failures are not limited to Riello-brand pumps, but are due to the fact that Riello pumps are simply more numerous in the Kitikmeot.

Fuel pumps of all makes are failing at “a rather alarming rate,” he said, while fllters and nozzles are also gumming up with “black gunk.”

Moffitt says the problems are not limited to Cambridge Bay, either, but also can be found in Kugluktuk, Taloyoak and Gjoa Haven.

As for the cause of the bad fuel, Moffitt points to the additive for lubricity, which he maintains wasn’t mixed and blended properly.

The GN accepted the fuel in San Francisco last summer, even though the lubricity additive had not been introduced to the fuel, Moffitt said, repeating information given to him from another PPD employee.

This process was performed in Tuktoyaktuk. But due to the colder temperatures and lack of agitation, the additive may not have dissolved properly in the fuel, the employee allegedly told Moffitt.

And that’s why tar balls now plug up things like fuel nozzles and fuel filters, and why fuel pumps are not capable of pumping “the gummy tar balls of additive,” Moffitt said.

The problems with the fuel pumps may have been made less acute in Kugluktuk, Taloyoak and Gjoa Haven than in Cambridge Bay because the fuel was delivered to the other communities by barge and not via the tanker that came to Cambridge Bay, Moffitt speculated.

In the other communities, mixing may also have been better, he said, because fuel pumped from one boat or barge to another ended up being better mixed and more of the additive was dissolved in the fuel.

Moffitt said he doesn’t expect the fuel-pump problem to go away before next year’s shipment of fuel is delivered, this time from Montreal.

A request to the PPD for an interview is still pending.

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